I don’t think there is anything more intimidating in my world then the blank page when I want to start writing something. The blank page is a reminder of how poorly I think I write, of how what I want to write about isn’t important enough to spend the time and energy on actually writing it and shouldn’t I be doing something, anything else?
This fear and intimidation comes with any piece I try to write, but is most prevalent in writing that is more personal in nature, like writing for this blog. If I’m writing a technical piece or a tutorial of some sort, I have more confidence in myself as I usually am somewhat over prepared, having researched the topic and/or written notes before I write the piece. But when it comes to personal, off the cuff writing I panic and sometimes freeze. Case in point: yesterday I spent about an hour after work trying to write a post for this blog and scrapped three different ideas that I started because they didn’t feel right to me for a number of reasons. I’d get two or three paragraphs in, read what I had written and then trash it. Not very productive or satisfying at all.
So why do I do this to myself if I feel intimidated by it? Because when I get past my fear and self doubt and actually get to the end of a post and publish it, I end up very pleased with myself and even have a bit of self confidence. But of course, that only lasts until the next time I sit down in front of the blank screen and start to try to write. It’s a never-ending circle and something I just don’t seem to be able to break away from these days.
But hopefully that’s going to change.
As I am writing this piece it is about 90 minutes before I am due to log in for work (I am a totally remote employee and love it, but that’s a topic for another day) and this is the third day in a row that I’ve woken up early to work on my own stuff. The first day I wrote an outline for an article I am working on for my more technical website and yesterday I spent my pre-work time getting my sites set up on the hosting provider I now work for. Which then brings us to today, the first day I am actually writing something that I will hopefully publish. I won’ follow this schedule 7 days a week but I’m thinking if I can do this from Monday- Friday, I will hopefully develop a nice habit and write 5 days a week. That’s the plan at least. We’ll see if I can stick to it.
One of the other things I’m trying to do is jot down ideas and thoughts as they come to me in an effort to not have to start from scratch every-time I want to write for this site. I had a professor at the University of Toronto, when I took some creative writing classes, tell the class that if you were stuck for an idea, take a line from one of your favorite songs and start from there. You didn’t need to actually use the line if you didn’t want to, but you could use the sentiment and emotion of the line to give you that sought after jumping off point at least. While I really can’t use that idea verbatim in this forum, the jotting down of thoughts and ideas feels similar enough to me to his idea that it is something I’m at least willing to try for now.
One of the more significant bad habits I have when it comes to writing, is self editing while writing. I think I’ve read and re-read this post at least 5 times while I was in the process of composing it, going back and changing the wording of a phrase or scrapping a sentence altogether and replacing it with something else. This only wastes time as I am writing and while I know that, I still continue to do it. I have to find a way to just let myself write and not worry about how it sounds until I finish at least a draft. But as I have been told many times, I am my own worst critic, and I don’t imagine my self-editing will go away anytime soon.
I’m sure there are many more bad habits I have when it comes to writing, but the self-editing is probably the biggest one for sure. If I was actually serious about writing, I should probably read a book or find some articles online about how to write, but I’ll always wonder if I am reading the right book or following the best advice when I sit down to write.
I realize that I’ll never get better without getting into some good habits, so I’ll leave it up to you good reader(s), what do you do that you find useful in your writing? I’d love to hear both the good and bad habits you have come across.
As always. feel free to leave a comment below.